30 July, 2012

Green with I Heart Cooking Clubs

Fresh Prickly Pear Ice (Nieve de Tuna)

I had so much fun with everyone's Nieves from last week that I had to keep it going.  In May when we moved to San Miguel all of the Cacti were in bloom.  It was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen!  Now, the Cacti have produced their fruits.  They all have different names, many based in Nahuatl and I have the worst time trying to pronounce them.  The lame mans term for these prickly fruits is Tuna, Green Tuna and Red Tuna...now that I can remember!  I tried making Paletas out of the two using Rick Bayless' recipe, but the Green was by far the best.

To peel a Prickly Pear cut nearly 1/2 an inch off of the sides and discard.  Then cut about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch (depending on the thickness of the peel) slit across the top.  Using your fingers to loosen the skin, roll the fruit out of its skin.  It is very easy, so long as you have the cuts.  If you get a sticker in your finger try rubbing it in your hair.  There are not really a lot of stickers on the fruit but sometimes you find one.

You can eat the Prickly Pear once peeled.  It has a lot of seeds and there is no hope of spitting them out.  Just give it a couple of chews and swallow.  This is supposed to be good for the digestion...but sometimes you don't want to eat the seeds.  They are really easy to blend with a splash of water.  Add a squeeze of lime and a little sugar if you like and you can drink them.  The red are delicious and almost sweet.  The green have more of a cactus flavor, which I found delicious in the Paletas.

Rick Bayless' Recipe for Fresh Prickly- Pear Ice (Nieve de Tuna) from Authentic Mexican
3 1/2 lbs (18 medium) fresh prickly pears
1 cup sugar, plus a little more if necessary
About 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Peel the prickly pears
Pulse in the blender with 1 cup of water, pour into a large strainer to remove the seeds.  Return the juice to the blender with the sugar and lime juice, process for several minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
Process in your ice cream machine according to manufactures instructions or pour into Popsicle molds.

***I tried this with the Red Tuna but did not put sugar or lime, because I like the flavor of the fruit by itself.  IT WAS AWFUL!  Unfortunately when it froze it tasted like raw cactus.  Tip- don't skimp on the lime and sugar!

27 July, 2012

High Altitude Baking

At an Elevation of 6,500 feet many people in San Miguel have had difficulty when trying to bake some of their favorite recipes from home.  Many people have asked Boris and I if we have discovered any tricks for baking cakes, cookies and pies.  But we had no idea!  Well I have done my homework and this is what I have discovered.  For more expertise there is a cookbook out there called Pie in the Sky that looks promising.

The biggest problem in baking at high altitudes comes down to one thing- MOISTURE!  Living in the desert is not much of a help either...maybe we should just bake on rainy days...I wonder if that helps?  Moist batters will take longer to cook in the middle.  The structure of baked goods can become weak.  Flavors are dulled.  Cakes and yeast breads rise too fast and then collapse.  All of these sound like a recipe for disaster! It makes  one wonder if it is even worth it!  Many people I know have given up completely.  I love baking, it is the one thing in the kitchen that I am good at, so I am determined to make this work!

I hope this will help more of you to get back into the kitchen and enjoy more of your favorite recipes.

Recipe Adjustment Guide

 3,000 ft5,000 ft7,000 ft10,000 ft
Increase each cup by:
0 to 1 tablespoon0 to 2 tablespoons3 to 4 tablespoons2 to 4 tablespoons
Baking Powder
or Baking Soda

Decrease each teaspoon by:
0 to 1/8 teaspoon1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon
Decrease each cup by:
0 to 1 tablespoon0 to 2 tablespoons2 to 4 tablespoons3 to 4 tablespoons
Increase each cup by:
0 to 2 tablespoons2 to 4 tablespoons3 to 4 tablespoons3 to 4 tablespoons
Fats (may not be necessary)
Decrease each cup by:
0001 to 2 tablespoons
in very high-fat cakes
and some cookies

Why to increase or decrease your ingredients is explained really well here.

Tips I am hanging on to:
For cookies add an extra egg yolk to the recipe to help keep them fluffy.  Pour heavy on the extracts.

Under whip your eggs and egg whites.  Yeah we get to give our arms a rest!

Increase the amount of butter in your pie crusts to avoid having to add too much water.  You need more moisture, but you don't want to add too much water or the pastry will be tough.

Substitute buttermilk, sour cream and yogurt for whole milk, since acids are increased at higher altitude.  I like this sense it is sometimes difficult to find some of these ingredients here in Mexico!  

Use Parchment paper!  when a recipe asks for a greased and floured pan.  Greasing and flouring pans is not enough :( More expensive...but less mess :)  It is probably best to grease baking sheets for cookies, even if the recipe does not call for it.

Preheat your oven!  Give it time and use an additional thermometer in the oven to be certain the temperature is correct.  Increase your oven temperatures by 15 to 25*F.  Monitor your dish carefully as it may brown too quickly.  Have aluminum foil on hand when baking pies as the top crust will certainly brown before the filling is even warmed through.

Use the top half of the oven, keeping away from the heat source will allow the middle portion of the dish cook before the outsides start to burn.

Wrap it up!  Airtight containers and plastic wrap are you friend!!!  Drier air means that baked goods will go stale faster.

26 July, 2012

Another Happy Customer

What a fantastic event we had last night!  The food was incredible and the customers relaxed and happy.  Nothing makes me more proud than to see the hostess relaxing, reading a book on the patio while we took over the kitchen preparing and setting up.  Isn't that the point of hiring someone to cater a party at your house?  So that you do not have to worry about a thing.  The party hadn't even started and I was happy to say it was a job well done.  Then when people started coming back for second and THIRDS...  we could not be more happy with the event last night.  And we certainly have another customer for life.

The Menu

Arranchin (Rissoto Balls) with Romseco Sauce

White Bean Crostini with Shrimp and Pesto Sauce

Buffet Dinner:

Caprese Salad
Beef Bourguignon with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Baked Torta Azteca Bubbling Hot out of the Oven
Baked Torta Azteca

Apple Tarte Tatin with Hand Whipped Cinnamon Whip Cream

Bar Service:

For some gorgeous pictures of San Miguel check out these lovely's!

24 July, 2012

Nieves with I Heart Cooking Clubs

I love Nieves which are sort of like Sorbet.  The litteral translation is Snow.  You can also have Paletas which are made in popcicle molds but much better!  I make Nieve de Lemon (Lime Sorbet) every week and then Boris douses it in Chamoy his favorite Mexican treat.  So just to be a little bit of a Smarty Pants I made Paletas with Lime and Chamoy.  I love these little molds that we bought at the Tiangis, they are so cute!  As summer is getting into full swing I have been having a lot of fun playing around with different flavors.  Next week I will share a reciepe for Paletas de Tuna (which is the Green Prickly Pear fruit).  I am also thinking of doing something with Strawberries!

But for this week I will share with you my reciepe for Lime Sorbet.  I have scanned many reciepes including Rick Bayless' reciep and put them all into play.  This makes about 2 quarts.

Nieve de Limon
inspired By Rick Bayless Authentic Mexican

8 Key Limes
1 cup Sugar
5 cups Water

Zest 2 of the limes, being careful to only get the green part.  Add to the cup of sugar in a medium sized pot and crush with the back of a spoon to extract some more of the oils.  Sometimes I add a couple leaves of Cilantro if I have some fresh on hand, it adds just a little something something that makes the Sorbet more interesting.  Add to the pot 1 cup of water.  Turn to medium heat and whisk constantly until all of the sugar has disolved.  Let it continue to agressivley simmer away until it reaches a nearly carmalized texture, you will see that the sugar has turned more brown and start to smell a nutty like flavor.

While the sugar is simmering away, juice the 8 limes.  

Turn off the sugar and pour in the remaining 4 cups of water and lime juice, whisk until well blended.

If you have an Icecream machine, follow instructions by the manufacturer.  If not, try this: Pour into a sturdy container with a top, cover and place in the freezer.  If you think about it give it a shake.  If you don't no problem.  You can also pour into your favorite Popcicle mold and freeze as usual.

To serve, scrape with a metal spoon and scoop into a small glass dish.  It is refreshing as is, but if you want to try something different try drizzling with Chamoy like Boris does.

21 July, 2012

Barbacoa in Home

Today I would like to share with you my Suegra's recipe for Barbacoa at home.  Traditionally Barbacoa is prepared by digging a hole then placing a goat wrapped in maguey leaves over warm coals and stones and then letting it cook buried overnight.  Although that way is fantastic at the same time I think our landlords and neighbors may not approve.  My Suegra recommends to use the back meat when preparing Barbacoa, be it goat or lamb... or even beef.  Beef is a bit of a faux pas but it works.  I just wouldn't brag about it to my Mexican friends ;)  
Preparing the pit
Okay here is the recipe...it is not very complicated and it take nearly 0 time in the preparation.  The time consumption comes in the steaming of the meat.  I like to figure at least 1 hour per pound of meat....so keep that in mind when shopping.  I did not put portions down in the ingredients, it really depends on how much meat you have and how much you like garlic.  I recommend using garlic very sparingly in this dish, maybe one clove per pound.

Becky's Barbacoa in Home
Goat or Lamb, Shoulder or Back Cut
Sea Salt
Garlic, cut into slivers
Banana Leaves
Avocado Leaves (if you can find them)
Large Pot for steaming, Tamale Pot, Canning Pot, Spaghetti Pot with strainer inside...

Prepare the Pot; you are going to want to be able to put a decent amount of water in the bottom since it will be steaming for a long time.  But you also do not want the leaves of the meat resting inside of the water.  If you have a pot with a strainer or some type of steamer use that!  Line the pot with half of the banana leaves, you want it covered from bottom to top with an opening at the top (for now) where you can place the meat.  Scatter a couple of avocado leaves on the bottom.
Prepare the Meat; Grab a Chef's knife and go all Jason Voorhees giving the chunk of meat multiple punctures on all sides.  Generously salt the meat (this is why you want Sea Salt) rubbing salt on all sides and using your finger to cram some salt into the holes that you have just created.  Take some slivers of garlic and using your finger shove them down inside of the holes as well.  Once it is well seasoned place the meat down inside of the pot in the center of the banana leaves.  Sprinkle a couple more avocado leaves on top and cover with the remaining banana leaves, tucking the leaves around the meat until it is a nice little bundle.  

Cooking the Meat; pour water along the side of the pot into the steamer portion of the pot.  Cover and let steam for at least 1 hour per pound of meat.  Make sure to regularly check that there is water in the bottom of the pot, but that it is not touching the meat or banana leaves.  The meat is done when it is falling apart and smells earthy and gamy.
To ServeServe the Barbacoa shredded with warmed corn tortillas, chopped onion and cilantro and lime wedges.  Let everyone make their own tacos or plates.

20 July, 2012

Aguascalientes, AGS Mexico

We are in Aguascalientes this weekend so I thought I would share with you a few pictures from the last time that we were here.  You may have heard of this city for the Fair of San Marcos a month long National Fair held every year.  Or for the bull fights that they have. We visited some of the gorgeous Haciendas as well as the downtown which has a beautiful Cathedral.  Aguascalientes is part of Central Mexico so Birria is really popular.  There is a stand on nearly every corner, especially on Sunday's and in the downtown Market they have a whole building just for Birria vendors.  I hope you enjoy the pictures :)

One of the Hacienda's that we visited

Beautiful and Flavorful Chilies Rellenos, nothing like a home cooked meal when you are on the road

This beautiful woman has been cooking, cleaning and serving for over 30 years!

The downtown Cathedral, I love the  blue!!!

19 July, 2012

July Potluck with I Heart Cooking Clubs

I have been putting off writing something for this week. I selected Empanadas for this week from Rick Bayless' cookbook Authentic Mexican.  We make Empanadas all of the time, but we make them very differently from the way that Rick does in this book.  Boris makes them more Argentinian style with Raisins and Caramelized Onions and serves them with Chimi Churri Sauce.  The flavors are incredible!  I know that I adapt and change the recipes each week, because I understand Rick's style.  He is true to Mexican cuisine, and the one thing you will discover from Mexican kitchen to Mexican kitchen is "Sazon".  Sazon is the magical touch that each person adds to their dish.  It is their own flavors, method of seasoning... the love that they put into the dish.  So, I was not going to participate this week in the Potluck because I did not want to make Picadillo Empanadas.  Picadillo is the Mexican version of Sloppy Joe in my book and I only ever make it when I am fresh out of ideas.  But then I read the side notes that Rick includes in his book and I had a renewed spirit to share this recipe.  Here is what it said:

"Traditional Variations:  Empanadas with Local Flavors:  Practically all Mexican communities make Empanadas and fill them with what they have or can afford ... the possibilities are inexhaustible."  Found on the right side of page 150 in Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless

So, with that I feel that I have Rick's permission to share with you our version of Empanadas.

Argentinian Style Empanadas
1 lb Ground Beef
1/4 lb Ground Pork
1 large Onion
1/4 cup Golden Raisins
1/2 cup Red Wine
1/4 Brandy
Oregano, Bay Leaf, and Thyme tied into a bundle
Puff Pastry

Simmer the Raisins in the Brandy for 5 minutes. Caramelize the Onion, Brown the meat, when the meat is half cooked add the red wine and the herb bundle.  Let simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the bundle and season with salt and pepper.  Spread onto a baking sheet to let the meat cool.

Once cool cut the puff pastry into squares, spoon in filling, fold into triangles and seal with a fork.  Bake according to puff pastry instructions.

Load up with cooled filling

Fold into a triangle

Lightly pinch the edges to begin to seal

Seal with a fork = ready for the oven!

Serve with Chimi Churri Sauce

18 July, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

I just love summer, flowers, fresh market produce and warm days.  


What is your favorite part of summer?

17 July, 2012

Something Different

Normally on Tuesday's I share with you Tiangis Treats, lots of goodies that I discovered at the market.  But with Summer in full swing back in the states you have a lot of produce on hand as well.  Maybe too much and in search of some inspiration perhaps? So I thought that I might mix it up today and share with you one of my favorite food blogs out there; The Traveler's Lunchbox.  

Melissa is such a fantastic writer and the way she describes the food and the experience...sigh.... I can only aspire to be able to make you so hungry after you read one of my posts.  Her recipes are excellent, fantastic flavors and easy to follow.  I hate when you read a nice sounding blog, you make the effort to gather the ingredients and then you follow the recipe and it is a total flop!  I have tried many of her recipes, because after reading about them how can you not?  And they are all delicious!  

"Bahn Mi for Beginners" from The Traveler's Lunchbox
The first post that I read and what brought me to her blog was Bahn Mi.  Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich chock full of flavors that just burst in  your mouth with each bite.  I read the article and almost didn't finish the whole thing because I had already clicked over to another screen and was searching flights to Seattle so I could go and have the same sandwich that she did.  It was either that or I was going to eat my computer screen.  Thankfully I calmed down and finished reading the blog and to my relief, as well as for my pocket books, there was a beautiful recipe at the bottom of the page.  The ingredients went direct onto my shopping list!  For my birthday that same year we went to San Francisco, CA to find a shop that specialized in Bah'n Mi we ordered two of everything and split them between the 4 of us until we were  ready to split in the middle ourselves.  It was so much fun!  But truth be told this recipe is better than what we hunted down in San Francisco and I make it again and again with no complaints from anyone in the house... other than it takes a long time to make all of the fixin's and sauces...but that's me being impatient because I know how wonderful it will taste when I am finished, if I could just hurry up and finish!  Hee hee.

"Having Some Bun" from the Traveler's Lunchbox
After such success with the Vietnamese sandwiches I was curious to discover more Vietnamese food, I searched the recipes and came across Bun which is a noodle dish, very different from Pho.  This is one of my summer time favorites.  Other than the pork there is hardly any cooking involved, you eat it cold... it is the perfect summer lunch.  It is cool and refreshing, but also extremely flavorful.  I love the textures in this dish as well.  When no one is home I slurp the noodles and let the peanuts crunch and the bean sprouts pop and I mmmm and ahhh and all around just enjoy my meal, loudly! Normally if I make the Bah'n Mi I make Bun as well or vice versa.  A lot of the ingredients are the same in both recipes and so it is just natural that both hit the weekly menu.

So, for this week I challenge you to try something different.  Even if it is not these recipes go to the farmers market, be brave!  Try something you don't know what to do with, like Kale or Fishsauce.  Take it home, have an experiment with you kids...who knows they might eat it!

PS-  All images are taken from The Traveler's Lunchbox and links are provided to the pages where they were taken from.  Please go and visit her page!  Secondly I feel like I must point out that Melissa and I are not friends, not that I would not want to be... I just really have never met her.  So often people write blog posts about their friends Blogs, which is sweet.  I do not want this post to be confused in that way.  I am just truly a fan of The Traveler's Lunchbox and have been for years.  I try to share with you many things that we enjoy in our home, share about our everyday life, our interests, ect.  These two recipes are often replicated in our home and so I wanted to share them with you.  I hope that you enjoy!

>>>Here is our Bun!  (The sandwiches disappeared too quickly for photographing) I served everything separate and each person gets to build their own dish.  The only thing I was missing was Dikon Radish and I sure missed it!  I also made a rosemary and mint infused Lemonada to go with it - Delicious! 

This is mine, tons of basil and mint, lots of crunchy peanuts
and carrots and a cucumber slice for every meatball...perfection!

14 July, 2012

Cocktail Party Menu

Cocktail Hour Spread
We have another fantastic party this evening with tons of appetizers, party trays and bar service.  We are really looking forward to it!

Caprese Salad Skewers
Gazpacho Shots
Prosciutto Wrapped Melons
Hojaldras with Mole and Chicken
Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Vegetable Platter
Fruit Platter

Caprese Salad Skewers
Bar Service
Gazpacho Shots
Marinated Shrimp for Gazpacho Shots
Chicken Mole Hojaldras

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